Reptiles of the World: Egg-eating Snake

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Dasypeltis scabra

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rw-115-Egg-eatingSnakeSome snakes have specialized for a single food source; examples are the six species of African egg-eating snakes. From hatchlings to adults, in all stages of their life, they eat only bird eggs, swallowing them whole, crushing them in their throat, and regurgitating the shell after squeezing out the nutrients. A complex rebuilding of their skull and the development of suction ridges instead of teeth allow them to stretch their jaws over eggs that have three to four times the diameter of their body. The egg’s shell is ruptured by spines, projecting from their backbone, which lie bare in the throat like posterior teeth.

The Blotched Egg-eater, which measures from 24 to 30 inches, is the most common species, ranging over most of Africa from Arabia to the Cape. In much of the range, the harmless egg-eaters are protected by imitating the color and behavior of some small African vipers.